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April 1983

Cognitive Loss and Recovery in Long-term Alcohol Abusers

Author Affiliations

From the Psychology Service, Boston Veterans Administration Medical Center (Drs Brandt, Butters, and Ryan); the Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine (Drs Brandt, Butters, and Ryan); and the Department of Psychiatry, Brockton (Mass) VA Medical Center (Dr Bayog). Dr Brandt is now with the Department of Psychology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1983;40(4):435-442. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1983.01790040089012

• The nature of the memory and visuospatial defects associated with chronic alcoholism, and the recovery of these functions, were investigated in a large group of alcoholic men and well-matched nonalcoholic controls. Both young and old alcoholics displayed significant impairments on tasks requiring the learning of novel associations and the holding of information in memory over longer delay intervals. The recovery of cognitive skills was found to depend on the length of abstinence and the particular behavioral functions examined. Whereas psychomotor skills and short-term memory improved significantly with prolonged abstinence, long-term memory was impaired even after seven years of continuous sobriety. We propose that recovery of short-term memory reflects reestablishment of cortical functioning, while the persistent long-term memory defect indicates more permanent damage to diencephalic structures.

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